In a classic study conducted nearly 50 years ago researchers presented

In a classic study conducted nearly 50 years ago

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In a classic study conducted nearly 50 years ago, researchers presented preschoolers with the choice between receiving a single marshmallow immediately or waiting 15 minutes to get two of them. This test measured what psychologists call delay of gratification , the ability to wait longer to get a larger, better, or more valuable reward instead of a less attractive one available immediately. delay of gratification The capacity to wait longer to get a larger, better, or more valuable reward instead of a smaller, less attractive, or less valuable one that is available immediately. In the marshmallow study, children who had a stronger ability to delay gratification when they were just preschoolers were far more likely than the others to be successful in school throughout childhood and adolescence, and, as adults, at work (Mischel, 2014). Motivation becomes a more and more important determinant of success during adolescence, as individuals increasingly are expected to take charge of their own educational careers. By the time one
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enters college, doing well is influenced as much by conscientiousness as it is by intelligence (Poropat, 2009 Individuals who are intrinsically motivated strive to achieve because of the pleasure they get out of learning and mastering the material. Generally speaking, they perform better in school than students who are extrinsically motivated a. Fear of Failure Being motivated to achieve is only part of the story. Even students who are determined to succeed are sometimes so afraid of failing that their strong achievement motivation is undermined. Fear of failure, which often creates feelings of anxiety during tests or in other evaluative situations, can interfere with successful performance. When the achievement situation involves an easy task, and when a little anxiety helps to focus attention (if, for example, the task is boring), a moderate amount of anxiety may improve performance by increasing one’s concentration. But the anxiety generated by a strong fear of failure interferes with successful performance. This often happens when the task involves learning something new or solving a complex problem—like many tasks faced by adolescents in school settings. Studies of adolescents from affluent backgrounds who are under strong pressure to do well in school find that it isn’t so much parents’ pressure to do well that creates mental health problems, but rather, parents’ criticism when expectations are not achieved (Luthar, Shoum, & Brown, 2006 An adolescent’s achievement motivation and her or his fear of failure work together to pull the individual toward (or repel the individual from) achievement situations. Individuals with a relatively strong need for achievement and a relatively weak fear of failure are more likely to actively approach challenging achievement situations—by taking more difficult classes, for example—and to look forward to them. In contrast, those whose fear of failure is relatively intense and whose need
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